Well, it turns out that a guy with a gun did go to the mall on Saturday, but only after hearing about the possibility of an active shooter. The camouflage-clad dunderhead nearly got himself ventilated by law enforcement officers he was trying to “help.”
During the height of the confusion on Saturday afternoon, witnesses say they saw police detain a man who came to Crabtree Valley Mall with a rifle after the initial call went out.
Gavin Stone tells CBS North Carolina this happened near the entrance to the parking garage along Creedmoor Road after calls about possible gunshots inside Crabtree Valley Mall were dispatched.
He says the man walked up, wearing military-style clothing and carrying a large rifle.
Stone says the man indicated he wanted to help police with the situation.
Dan Bullard, who took photos of the incident, also described the man as wanting to help and said the rifle was an M4.
Stone describes what happened next.
“Police officer confronted him, pulled his gun out on him, told him to put it down. He starts taking it apart, put his hands down on his knees and got detained,” Stone said.
I empathize with this gentleman. Heck, when the news first came out, I even joked about gearing up and heading into town.
Do I need to gear up, or does RPD have this?
— Bob Owens (@bob_owens) August 13, 2016
The difference is, of course, that I was joking.
I’ve trained with highly experienced military and law enforcement trainers, and I know not to get in the way when multiple law enforcement agencies are responding to a scene where they expect the strong possibility of an encounter with an armed hostile threat who has been repeated (inaccurately) to have fired shots into a crowd.
What this guy did isn’t exactly a suicide attempt, but it was—to put it mildly—a failure to appreciate how his arrival on the scene with a long gun would be perceived.
Fortunately, the officer who first encountered our would-be hero did not panic. The officer took cover behind a large brick planter, and issued verbal commands to the rifle-armed man. The man followed the officer’s instructions and was taken into custody without incident.
Its funny how even heavily-armed people aren’t shot by police when they follow instructions from officers, isn’t it?
We don’t know if the man offering assistance was arrested. Under North Carolina law, he could presumably be charged with “going armed to the terror of the public.” That said, “going armed to the terror of the public” requires the following:
A person guilty of this offense:
(1) arms himself or herself with an unusual and dangerous weapon
(2) for the purpose of terrifying others and
(3) goes about on public highways
(4) in a manner to cause terror to the people.
You’ll note it takes more than being armed in public; the officer has to perceive intent. As this man’s reason for arriving on the scene with a rifle was to reportedly offer his help to police, then it’s quite a stretch to claim that his intent was to terrify others.
I suspect that he was probably warned that his assistance, while sincerely offered, was a very bad idea, and then released with a warning.
Folks, there are instances where law enforcement officers appreciate the arrival of armed citizens, but those instances are very few and far between, and likely to result in drawing officers away from the threat they need to be addressing, exacerbating and complicating the problem they face and putting everyone’s lives at greater risk.
Unless a truly extraordinary event takes place and law enforcement calls for armed assistance, please let them address the problem without volunteering.